DOS#6 The Fourth Rule – Discernment of Spirits w/ Fr. Timothy Gallagher – Discerning Hearts Podcasts

Episode 6 -The Fourth Rule:

Of Spiritual Desolation. I call desolation all the contrary of the third rule, such as darkness of soul, disturbance in it, movement to things low and earthly, the unquiet of different agitations and temptations, moving to want of confidence, without hope, without love, when one finds oneself all lazy, tepid, sad, and as if separated from his Creator and Lord.

Because, as consolation is contrary to desolation, in the same way the thoughts which come from consolation are contrary to the thoughts which come from desolation.


In this episode with Fr. Timothy Gallagher, in conversation with Kris McGregor, explores of St. Ignatius’ Fourth Rule of Spiritual Desolation. Spiritual desolation is described as the opposite of spiritual consolation, characterized by feelings of darkness, disturbance, movement to earthly things, lack of confidence, hopelessness, and feeling separated from God. The episode discusses the importance of recognizing, understanding, and acting against spiritual desolation to grow in one’s spiritual journey.

Fr. Gallagher explains that spiritual desolation is a common obstacle in the spiritual path, where individuals may feel discouraged, leading to a withdrawal from prayer and church involvement. He emphasizes that spiritual desolation is allowed by God as a test, teaching us to depend more on Him and less on our feelings. The episode provides practical advice on dealing with desolation, such as persevering in prayer and seeking balance in life to avoid non-spiritual desolation, which can impact one’s spiritual life.

The conversation also explores the difference between spiritual desolation and the “dark night of the soul,” highlighting that spiritual desolation should always be resisted as it is a tactic of the enemy, while the dark night is a special kind of purification that comes from God and should be accepted with perseverance. The discussion concludes with the importance of discernment in identifying and overcoming spiritual desolation, encouraging listeners to engage with their spiritual struggles through awareness, understanding, and action.

Discerning Hearts Reflection Questions:

    1. Reflecting on Personal Experience of Spiritual Desolation: Reflect on a time when you experienced spiritual desolation. How did you feel separated from God, and what were the specific thoughts or emotions you encountered?
    2. Identifying Feelings of Darkness and Disturbance: St. Ignatius describes spiritual desolation as including feelings of darkness, disturbance, and a pull towards earthly things. Can you identify instances in your life when you felt this way? What triggered these feelings?
    3. Responding to Spiritual Desolation: Fr. Gallagher emphasizes the importance of recognizing, understanding, and taking action against spiritual desolation. Reflect on how you have previously responded to spiritual desolation. What steps did you take to counteract it?
    4. Overcoming Withdrawal from Prayer and Church Activities: Spiritual desolation can lead to discouragement in prayer and participation in church activities. Have you ever felt this way? How did you overcome the urge to withdraw?
    5. Understanding the Difference Between Spiritual Desolation and the “Dark Night of the Soul”: The podcast discusses the distinction between spiritual desolation and the “dark night of the soul.” How do you understand this difference? Have you or someone you know ever experienced the “dark night of the soul”?
    6. Resisting the Work of the Enemy: Ignatius teaches that spiritual desolation should always be resisted as it is the work of the enemy. Reflect on strategies that you could employ to resist and reject spiritual desolation in your life.
    7. Maintaining Balance to Combat Spiritual Desolation: The concept of balance is mentioned as a way to combat spiritual desolation. How do you maintain balance in your spiritual and daily life to prevent non-spiritual desolation from affecting your relationship with God?
    8. The Role of Discernment in the Spiritual Journey: Reflect on the role of discernment in your spiritual journey. How can discernment help you to distinguish between spiritual desolation and other challenges in your life?
    9. Persevering in Prayer During Dry Spells: Fr. Gallagher highlights the importance of persevering in prayer even when it feels dry or difficult. Share a time when you continued to pray despite not feeling God’s presence. What was the outcome?
    10. Learning from Spiritual Desolation: Finally, consider the idea that spiritual desolation can teach us valuable lessons. What lessons have you learned from your experiences of spiritual desolation? How have these lessons helped you grow in your faith?

The Discernment of Spirits: Setting the Captives Free – Serves as an introduction to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola

The 14 Rules for Discerning Spirits –
“The Different Movements Which Are Caused In The Soul”
as outlined by St. Ignatius of Loyola can be found here

Father Timothy M. Gallagher, O.M.V., was ordained in 1979 as a member of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, a religious community dedicated to retreats and spiritual formation according to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.  Fr. Gallagher is featured on the EWTN series “Living the Discerning Life:  The Spiritual Teachings of St. Ignatius of Loyola”. 

For more information on how to obtain copies of Fr. Gallaghers’s various books and audio which are available for purchase, please visit  his  website:

 For the other episodes in this series visit
Fr. Timothy Gallagher’s “Discerning Hearts” page

2 thoughts on “DOS#6 The Fourth Rule – Discernment of Spirits w/ Fr. Timothy Gallagher – Discerning Hearts Podcasts”

  1. Episode podcast#6 was inspirational and releaving . Listening with a statue of the Pieta close by, I broke out in relief and laughter when Fr. Gallagher mentioned the non-spiritual consolation, working out/ running, for an aid to combat spiritual desolation! ( hope I got that right). I gave the Pieta a big ” thumbs up”, then nearly cried as this is what I push myself to do during periods of desolation and definitely helps. Thanks, Fr. Gallagher


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